With IT managed services provider Rackspace the latest firm to unveil a carbon neutral service it is worth assessing what factors are motivating firms to make the considerable investment required to reduce their energy footprint and offset remaining emissions.
Speaking to Rackspace's Fabio Torlini it quickly became apparent that the main reason for the scheme was employee engagement – or, to put it more prosaically, staff morale.
Sure, the scheme had the makings of a marketing coup and was likely to play well with increasingly environmentally conscious customers, but the initial reason for agreeing to the initiative was to appeal to internal staff and make them feel that they are employed by a company that is a Good Place To Work.
Such benefits may be tricky to quantify but Torlini is adamant that there is a return on investment. "As a service company what makes you different [to your rivals] is how you treat your staff – the people who deliver customer service on a daily and hourly basis," he argued.
It is a point echoed by Mike Ayres, head of business development at Sky subsidiary Easynet, who I interviewed recently about his company's attempts to go carbon neutral (the full article will appear in IT Week soon). He said that the project had given an invaluable boost to staff morale: "Many people feel they have to compromise their principles to work for a large company but we are adhering to principles many people would agree with."
It is an interesting point and surely a valid one. It can not be a coincidence that the most high profile adopters of greener business models – Sky, HSBC, Tesco, Virgin and now Rackspace – are essentially service organisations where a happy and talented workforce can have a massive impact on competitiveness.
Expect services firms to continue to lead the way in environmental initiatives until the harder financial benefits of green business models become more apparent.
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